MEDELLIN, Colombia – Colombian cyclist Mariana Pajon and Carlos Ramirez, who won gold and bronze medals, respectively, at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, on Tuesday received an emotional tribute in their home town of Medellin.
The athletes, displaying their medals and riding in a bus, made an almost four-hour tour through the city’s streets, where hundreds of people turned out to cheer them.
Colombian flags bearing the image of Pajon’s face and messages such as “United for one country” and “Thanks, champions” filled the route with color, while the athletes waved, showed off their medals and posed for photos with fans.
“This tribute is not only for me, but for all of our athletes who were in Rio. If I won a medal, what I want is this: to share it with the people,” said Pajon.
“It was worth it,” was the phrase that Pajon said most often during the tour, accompanied by a huge caravan consisting of fire engines, police cars, cyclists and motorcycle riders.
“It was four years of struggle, of falls and getting up,” said the “Queen of BMX,” as she is known in Colombia.
Meanwhile, Ramirez promised to “keep dreaming” after winning Colombia’s second BMX bronze.
“The people told me that ... I made them suffer. I enjoyed it a lot, and only now, in my home country, am I starting to realize what I have hanging around my neck,” said Ramirez, referring to his medal.
Athletes from the South American won eight medals in Rio.
The tour of the city was capped off with a ceremony headed by the governor of Antioquia province, Luis Perez, and Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez.
“I’m an admirer of these athletes, since they are reference points and examples. With their effort they showed a different face of the country,” Perez said.
At the Yesid Santos Coliseum – where around 300 people gathered to shout “You made it, Mariana!” – the cycling champ said that “it’s time to support sport more in Colombia,” emphasizing that the country’s athletes compete “to give joy” to their countrymen.
Also honored on Tuesday was BMX athlete Carlos Mario Oquendo, who won the bronze medal in London in 2012 and was a semifinalist in Rio in 2016.